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12/19 WWE Raw report: Raw Express: Tribute to the Troops

Dec 20, 2005 - 3:42:00 AM

By Mike Roe, Torch Team Contributor

WWE Raw review
December 19, 2005
Taped 12/9/2005 at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan
Aired on USA Network
Report by Mike Roe, Torch OVW/Smackdown Specialist

Show title: "Tribute to the Troops"

Welcome, everyone, to the Raw report, Express style! I intended to take a break from covering the troop shows this year, but regular Raw review host Dusty Giebink's grad school professors had another idea, so I'm here to treat you to Raw goodness, Afghanistan style! I watched the Christmas episode of the Tick earlier, so I'm already in the holiday mood. Will the Raw holiday special add or subtract from that? Let's find out!


In the credits for the previous show, they aired a promo for the Tribute to the Troops show, and it was apparently network sanctioned as well as it had a little USA logo in the corner. Let's hope that WWE doesn't have anything too crazy to embarrass said network tonight. I expect them to be on their best behavior (which may not be that good, but good for WWE).

We got the standard pre-WWE show intro. This brings a new meaning to JR's claim in the intro that the world is watching, considering this is the first WWE show to be shown in Afghanistan.

We started the show with a clip from Bagram Air Force Base, with the troops being commanded to welcome WWE Raw. The troops all scurried to find their seats for the big show!

A video package aired with some archival footage of old USO shows, including the one and only Bob Hope doing his golf swing, the Andrews Sisters, Marilyn Monroe, and more! A voiceover explained that, for over sixty years, entertainers have lifted the spirits of soldiers around the globe, and the voiceover said that WWE was continuing this tradition, eight thousand miles away, far from home. The servicemen and women will be treated to "a slice of Americana." This video package went from archival footage to footage of the troops in Afghanistan, and then to the WWE wrestlers in Afghanistan, exploring the country and interacting with the troops, as well as some footage of just the troops, including messages home to family. Unfortunately, it was set to that annoying "Set me free" Scott Stapp song. Superstars in the footage included, in order, Trish Stratus, Lilian Garcia, Chris Masters (in a headlock from one of the soldiers), Ric Flair (Strutting with one of the troops!), Carlito (with troops and a Puerto Rican flag), Big Show (gorilla pressing a soldier), Coach (in the cockpit of a helicopter, a scary thought indeed), Shawn Michaels (on a gun turret, even scarier), Candice Michelle, John Cena, Triple H (visiting an injured soldier in the hospital), Mick Foley (putting up a flag with troops, Iwo Jima style), Maria (Hugging a soldier, and I've never wanted to enlist more), Big Show, Ashley and Candice, Triple H hugging a female soldier, Trish Stratus getting practically groped by a group of male soldiers, Ric Flair, Cena, and finally one more shot of Big Show.

The soldiers went nuts to start the show off as Joey Styles welcomed us to Raw alongside the King. No Coach on commentary tonight? It really is Christmas!

*** Vince McMahon strutted out first. There was also a giant American flag by the entrance. King pointed out that he referred to it as a "swagger." Styles wanted to know if Vince would teach him to swagger like that if he asked nicely, and King said, like the song says, there's no chance in Hell of that happening. Styles doubted he could pull it off anyway.

Vince McMahon said that they were here in Afghanistan! (Cheap pop!) Vince said that they were there to entertain the troops and spread a little Christmas cheer. One soldier had on a wizard hat that they zoomed in on. (Where the heck are they getting wizard hats in Afghanistan?) A big group of troops also had on Santa hats. Vince said that he had it on good authority that Santa was going to make his first world tour stop within the hour, right here at Bagram airfield! Vince said Santa would continue on with his world tour, but he's in a bit of a quandary. He doesn't know what to give "certain individuals" for a Christmas present. (Uh oh.) Santa doesn't know what to give "those negative media types back home, who refuse to tell your story, and basically have forgotten you!" The troops loudly booed. Vince said that he doesn't get it, because their story is a wonderful story, a true story, and a story with a happy ending, a story of duty, of honor, and of sacrifice and service to their nation. Vince said, most importantly, it's a story of accomplishment, their, in Iraq, and around the world, because, when called upon, the men and women of the armed forces "damn well get the job done!" (Tell that to Osama.) Vince suggested that "those media types" stop telling "their" stories and start telling the stories of the troops. Vince had an idea for Santa on what to give "these elite members of the media," since most of what they say and write is suitable only for fertilizer, Vince suggests that Santa give them a nice big bag of reindeer poop. Yes, Vince McMahon said "poop." (Does he write John Cena's promos personally?) Vince said that WWE was there to tell their story, to say thank you, and to tell the troops that "America damn well supports you!" Vince said that it was time to get the show on the road. The troops started chanting "USA!" Vince then introduced Lilian Garcia, nothing that she was an army brat herself.

*** Joey said that he and King had it good, calling the matches in the climate controlled WWE studios, stateside, but it's only 46 degrees in Afghanistan, and 33 with the wind chill factor, and all that Lilian had on was a reddish pink top with white fur trim and camo straps that covered her boobs and not much else, along with a camo thing that I guess was sort of a belt/sash, a reddish pink miniskirt with white trim on the bottom, white boots with trim, dog tags, and a Santa hat. She was looking thumbs up, to be sure. Joey Styles talked about how her father was a retired army lieutenant colonel. Vince dashingly spun her around. Vince called the troops to attention, and introduced Lilian to sing the National Anthem. King commanded Styles to stand up. Lilian sang, and did a nice job as always. They showed one soldier mouthing along with the song. Some troops saluted. They showed that some of the troops were sitting on top of a helicopter, while others were holding up a large flag. Vince held his hand to his heart. Lilian always pulls this little trick when she gets to the "flag was still there" part, going up much higher than the standard version of the song, and I love it. The troops loudly cheered at the end and broke into a USA chant.

(Commercial break.)

They showed a video clip from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, which was where they stopped on their way to Afghanistan. John Cena voiced over the piece. One of the funniest bits was that, as Carlito was doing autographs, a little boy with his own afro came up and said hi, and Carlito put over the kid's do. Cena did the "You can't see me!" with some kids. The troops talked about how great it was that WWE could come do this for them. Ric Flair thanked the troops. Lilian hugged a little boy. Shawn Michaels also thanked the troops and said that WWE and the USA were behind them, every step of the way. They then visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest military hospital outside the United States. They showed a clip from Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper, headlined "WWE's Big Show a big hit with troops; Wrestler, other superstars visit wounded at Landstuhl." Big Show talked about being there to boost the troops' morale. Coach, Foley, Triple H, Ashley, and Candice were shown visiting troops. Another Stars and Stripes headline had Triple H giving an autograph with the headline "Pro wrestlers pay visit to wounded GIs at Landstuhl wards." The piece had a quote from Big Show saying "People like me definitely appreciate all the stuff they do." Vince was shown visiting with an injured soldier. Art Myers, the director of Armed Forces Entertainment, said that he gets emails throughout the year asking when WWE is coming back, and said that they make a huge impression on the troops.

(1) The Big Show defeated Carlito at 1:00.

Pre-match analysis: Carlito was out first. Carlito was a real hoot on his appearance on Rita Cosby last week, so hopefully we get something fun here. King thanked Armed Forces Entertainment for helping bring WWE there, and they showed director Art Myers watching the show. Big Show was next, hoisting his tag team title high. King thanked Art Myers, saying it was the third year in a row that he helped coordinate the WWE coming overseas. Styles said that Show had told them that he was delighted to be there to entertain the troops that were part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Styles said that there were over 18,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, and there were over 5,000 watching the Tribute to the Troops!

Match analysis: Carlito hid behind the referee and hid in the ropes early. When the ref made Show back off, Carlito snuck up and attacked from behind. Big Show beat on Carlito and knocked him to the outside. Big Show then grabbed his 'fro and started pulling him up and into the ring, but Carlito raked the eyes. Carlito got some brief offense with kicks and punches and guillotined Big Show's head over the top rope, jumping down to the outside. Styles noted that the WWE superstars flew over on a C-17 plane, which can carry over 175,000 pounds. Carlito climbed up top and went for an axe handle, but got caught in midair. One chokeslam and a hook of the legs later, and Big Show wins!

Post-match analysis: Big Show celebrated his victory and smiled at the troops. He pounded his chest, pointed to the troops and nodded. He high fived troops on his way out, and seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself.

Match grade: Not applicable. This was a basic squash, with some minimal offense from Carlito. I know this show, in a way, takes place outside the regular WWE world, but it seems extremely short sighted to be jobbing out someone who's going to be in the main event of the next pay-per-view to someone who isn't.

Styles hyped that they were going to have a boot camp match later on between Triple H and Shawn Michaels. What's a boot camp match? Well, guess we'll find out!

King reminded everyone that this could still be a very dangerous place as they cut to another video package. They showed signs denoting mine fields. Colonel Poore of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing noted to Ric Flair and Shawn Michaels that Afghanistan is one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. One of the things that surprised me a bit about this show was that there seemed to be more female soldiers than ever, which I thought was great. Another soldier said that, when they first landed there, just in that general area, there were six to eight million land mines in that area alone. One soldier said that mines were the scariest part of being in Afghanistan. A soldier said that they cleared four million mines this year of that six to eight million. Sergeant Robert Boyce of 1042 Med Company said that the first week they were there they discovered this door in their living quarters that they couldn't go through because it hadn't been cleared for booby traps and mines. They said it was a tedious process and it took days to just clear yards. Every day they have controlled explosions, and they have a team whose entire job is just to clear mines. Cena was shown talking to troops as well. Tech. Sergeant Dustin Prowell of the 455th said that they have remnants of mines, and showed an anti personnel mine that isn't powerful enough to take out a vehicle, but will give you a flat tire and will take off your foot and leg. They showed various natives who had lost legs. They said that their de-miners had recovered a lot of mines, and they showed bags and bags filled with them. them. They said they would destroy them with C4, detonating the mines. They were in bunkers while the mines were set off. Shelton Benjamin and Trish Stratus were also with this group. Benjamin talked about how the explosion was so strong that he felt it in his heart. The troops talked about how, every time they go out, they're making a difference in someone's life.

(Commercial break.)

The 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Camp Cunningham wished everyone a happy holidays.

*** Coach was in the ring as we came back from break and introduced... Santa Claus! Yaaaay! King wanted to know how the Coach got to introduce Santa Claus. Santa came out to "Sleigh Ride" in an army uniform with white trim, without much of a belly, and an absolutely ridiculously fake Santa beard. King said it was worse than Tomko's Ha! The oversized white facial hair largely obscured "Santa's" face. Coach sat on the middle rope to let "Santa" into the ring. Coach said that Santa had come a long way and had a message for the troops. "Santa" grabbed the mic and ho, ho, ho'd. He said he had known Vincent McMahon since he was an evil little boy. Ha! He said that Vince had grown up to be a good supporter of the American troops, he has to disagree with him about one thing. Mr. McMahon said that the world has forgotten about our troops, causing the crowd to troops. "Santa" said "who cares." Oh! There may be some brave people there, but this place, if it were any better, would suck. A person of his distinction, Saint Nick, came here and had to use a Port-a-potty. There was no Dom Perignon for his reindeer, and said you might as well name it Rehabistan. He said that Santa knew what to do, and he knew bad people when he saw them. Next year, Santa will fly over Afghanistan, and this year, Santa Claus is canceling Christmas, New Year's, Saint Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Bastille Day, Groundhog Day, Oktoberfest, everything! There will be no more holidays, he's even canceling their leave! This drew huge boos from the troops. "Kris Kringle" said, excuse me, and asked them to show them some respect. The troops broke into a "You suck!" chant as King said the troops probably want to cancel "Santa Claus." He's canceling their R & R and hopes they have a rotten Christmas because he's going home to room service and cold beer! As this promo went on, it became more and more clear that "Santa" was really Smackdown's own JBL, and Styles noted that he was starting to sound familiar.

JBL Santa was interrupted by "Sleigh Ride" coming over the announce system once again. It was another Santa! Santa came out, complete with red suit, long white beard, and a bag of presents! Yaaaaay! Got something for your friendly neighborhood Raw reviewer, Santa? Styles said that this is the Santa that he leaves milk and cookies for. (Man, I wish I had some milk and cookies now. Mmmmmm.) King thanked Styles for the singing cats CD that he gave King last year, and noted it was a future garage sale item.

Coach wanted to know what was up, and said that there couldn't be two Santa Clauses there at the same time. JBL Santa pointed at the other Santa accusatorially. Coach asked Santa 2 who he was. He told Coach to hold on, and called him Co-ho-ho-oach. He said he was the real Santa, and soon he would be delivering toys to all the good servicemen and women, right here, in Afghanistan, and gave a thumbs up! King caught on that this sounded a little like an old friend. (Foley!) Styles asked if Santa just got a cheap pop! JBL Santa said that the only ho, ho, hos around here are the divas, and he just canceled Christmas! The crowd booed. Santa 2 said there was only one way to prove who the real Santa was. Just like they used to do at the North Pole, he proposed a no ho-ho-holds barred match! Where anything go-ho-ho-hos! Santa 2 held his ear to the crowd for their cheers. A referee ran down and it was on!

(2) Mick "Santa Claus" Foley defeated JBL at 2:14.

Match analysis: JBL sucker punched Santa from behind! He ripped off his hat, clearly showing it was JBL. The hat and beard fell off as Bad Santa attacked Mick Santa in the corner, and it was clear that it was Mick Foley. Foley grabbed his bag of presents as JBL did a Santa belly laugh, and hit him right in the head. JBL bumps for the presents! Mick threw another shot that JBL didn't sell much, but he did stagger for another present bag shot, and then a running Santa toy sack shot took JBL down! JBL ripped off his Santa beard, completely revealing that it was JBL. Foley pulled out a pair of salad tongs from his bag and grabbed JBL by the balls! Oh my! King said that, during the holidays, those were referred to as "chestnuts." Nice! Santa tossed his beard to the crowd, opened his jacket, and pulled a pillow out from under his shirt. Styles sarcastically noted that he knew there had to be some padding under there. Ha! Foley hit JBL with the pillow and did a Cactus Jack style bang, bang, but since it was just a pillow, Foley turned around into a big boot! Styles said that "Mickles" got carried away there with the pillow. JBL went for the Clothesline From Hell, but Foley ducked, kicked JBL in the gut, and hit a double underhook DDT! Foley pulled out Mr. Socko! Mandible claw to JBL takes JBL down to the mat, and with JBL out, the ref counted the pin with the mandible claw still applied. Foley wins!

Post-match analysis: Mick Santa celebrated his win, climbing the ropes in the corner. King said this was one of the most disheveled Santas he had ever seen. They showed some of the Polish Special Forces watching. Foley threw a wreath to fans, and threw his Santa hat to other troops.

Match grade: Not applicable. JBL, being the gung ho guy for the troops that he is, did the job here while heeling it up. His pre-match promo was pure gold. A nice short comedy match. My favorite was Foley's attack with the pillow.

Styles introduced the next video package by saying that freedom in Afghanistan means a free press, and the press loved meeting the WWE superstars. They showed a WWE Afghanistan press conference. John Cena and Trish Stratus were the two they had give the press conference, as the heavyweight and women's champs respectively. Cena said they were giving the Afghani people a taste of American culture. Trish talked about how they felt the first time they came to Afghanistan, and noted she was particularly pleased by the building of women's schools. Cena talked about how great it was and that he didn't know what to expect, but would go back to the US with nothing but positive words, and thanked the Afghani people as a whole.

(Commercial break.)

WWE Rewind: Raw 2 weeks ago, Vince McMahon fired Eric Bischoff! Vince ordered Cena to "take out the trash," and Cena gave Bisch an FU. Vince then tossed Eric into the back of a garbage truck and drove him off.

They showed another clip from Bagram, and showed a giant twin-rotor helicopter landing. Styles talked about how King would make a good GM, and King said he couldn't afford the cut in pay. They did the sponsorships with footage of helicopters in the background. Styles noted that WWE superstars were joined in Afghanistan by journalists from MSNBC. Maybe that should be "journalists."

They showed a graphic for Rita Cosby's Live and Direct. Rita talked about how, when the idea was pitched to her to go with WWE to Afghanistan, she was taken aback a little, but when she thought about it, she felt that it could be a wonderful story, showing these guys who have nerves of steel in the ring, and show a different side of them. Rita was shown traveling with the WWE. She was introduced as a "special correspondent" for MSNBC. One of the best parts of this was that you saw a somewhat tired looking JBL on the bus, looking somewhat comical. JBL talked about how being there was just to let the troops know they support them, and it's not political, and they have no agenda but to tell them thank you. JBL said that he felt MSNBC saw that. They showed clips of JBL visiting troops, as well as Gene Snitsky, Chris Masters (wearing a Carlito shirt!), Mick Foley, Triple H, Coach, and others. They showed Vince stepping off the plane, followed by Rita, then Triple H. (Gotta keep that hierarchy in place!) They showed a clip from the Rita Cosby "in the War Zone" (with the W being a WWE logo) specials. In the WWE studios, Vince McMahon said that Rita and her producing team were real troopers, and that they didn't have any special accomodations other than what the wrestlers did, saying that they were right there, interacting with the troops. They showed more clips from the specials, as well as some behind the scenes clips. I love that they included the clip of the kid who said that the main reason he was there was college money. It came off a bit more awkward on the original special, as he struggled to think of other reasons he was there. Triple H said that Rita really wanted to know the behind the scenes stories and put over Rita's passion. They showed another clip where they did a father/son reunion over video on the program. It was, like much of the special, pretty awkward originally, as they noted that they both talk using voice over Internet software already. Rita asked Command Sergeant Major Iuni Savusa whether there had been any advancements regarding Osama Bin Laden and whether he was still hiding in the hills of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He just responded that, if they knew where he was, they would have him. Well, that was somewhat curt. Rita said she was somewhat scared being in Afghanistan. Ssgt. Joshua Burrell of the 164th Military Police Company said that every time they left "the Wire" they're always on alert, as it is dangerous. Rita said that, every time she worried about her own safety, it was nothing compared to what the troops went through. Triple H said that you realize where you are and what is going down in these places. Vince talked about how something could always explode. Triple H noted that all the helicopters have gunners. Vince said that they have all had experiences where they've lost someone or know of someone who lost someone. One soldier talked about how they had lost their medic, and when Coach asked what happened, the soldier said he was lost on a regular patrol. Candice, Vince, and Triple H were also with this soldier. He was lost to an IUD. Vince said that you can also see the resolve. They played the clip from the Rita specials of Vince making the troops call him "sir." Oh boy. JBL said that the atmosphere during the last shots with Rita was electric. They showed more clips from the special. Rita said that they did the spots right on the base, and that the time difference was definitely a factor. They were nine and a half (a half?) hours ahead, so that meant they had to do the show at 6:30 in the morning. Big Show said that, at that time of day, he's usually dreaming of free buffets. Ha! Vince said it was cold, and Rita noted it was 20 degrees. Vince said that the troops had the best time. Rita talked about bringing the wrestlers out on each show, and starting, of course, with Vince McMahon. She said he was "the general" on the base, because all the soldiers looked up to him. Rita talked about JBL, Triple H, and Big Show. Big Show, in a funny spot from the shows, danced a little with one of the female troops. Rita talked about the divas, who made one soldier feel very nice, saying that he was their new boyfriend. Rita then talked about Mick Foley, Shawn Michaels, and John Cena. They had footage of Cena talking about how they never felt safer due to the troops, and called them the best security money could be. Rita said, after their on air part was done, they stuck around, shaking the hands of all the soldiers. Trish Stratus was shown giving autographs. Ned Friedrich, one of the cameramen, talked about how great the WWE superstars were. Rita said that she was an honorary diva now. Oh, brother. She didn't know if she could wear the attire though. Yeah, that might not be a great idea.

(Commercial break.)

Rick Scavetta, Media Relations Chief said hello to his family.

(3) Snitsky defeated Shelton Benjamin at 1:46.

Pre-match analysis: Shelton Benjamin was out next. They showed some of the troops rockign out to his "Ain't no stoppin' me noooowwwww!" music. Gene Snitsky was out next, and it wasn't his fault! King and Styles thanked the America Supports You program. King said that Snitsky's beard was worse than that of the phony santa.

Match analysis: Styles asked if the recent losing streak of Shelton Benjamin would continue in Afghanistan. Snitsky shoved Benjamin's face. Snitsky hit a shoulder block. A graphic at the bottom of the screen thanked the technical staff in Afghanistan. Snitsky exposed the top turnbuckle. Benjamin had a yellow ribbon in support of the troops on the back of his kickpad (the thing that goes over his boots). Benjamin countered a suplex in midair, landing on his feet and hitting a neckbreaker. Snitsky made his way back to his feet and went for a clothesline, but Benjamin ducked and delivered a series of punches, followed by a flying forearm and a knee lift to the face to a Snitsky on his knees. Shelton climbed to the top rope and delivered a top rope clothesline to Snitsky. Benjamin then went for a ten punch on the mat, but he could pulled off with only about five punches and got a talking to from the ref. Benjamin went for a Stinger splash, running into the exposed turnbuckle, then ran into a Snitsky big boot. Snitsky covered, Benjamin loses!

Post-match analysis: Snitsky has the honor of being the first heel on the show to win! Will he be the last? Snitsky celebrated his win, and King compared his popularity to that of the Taliban. Little bit harsh, isn't it? They showed a replay of Snitsky giving Benjamin the big boot for the win.

Match grade: Not applicable. Shelton Benjamin gets jobbed out again on the way to the arrival of Mama Benjamin. God help us all. Snitsky seems to have lost a bit of muscle mass lately, and his back acne is clearing up. Take that as you will. Shelton Benjamin is so good, and this is pretty sad, as I don't think any of these losing streak angles have ever worked. Just ask Matt Hardy.

They went to another video package of... the Taliban Tavern?! CHief Master Sergeant John Alderton talked about the Taliban Tavern, saying that, in the days of the Taliban, this was one of the places they worked out of, and was one of the last mud huts in Kandahar. They showed the troops meeting with WWE wrestlers there. Alderton said that this served as a meeting place for troops and helped lift morale. A lot of troops had left their mark on the walls. It's open 24 hours a day and always serves coffee.

Up next: John Cena versus Chris Masters! A workrate fan's dream!

(Commercial break.)

Whiskey Company (Whiskey Company?!) of Mehtar LAM, Afghanistan, wished everyone a happy holidays, along with Ashley and Candice Michelle.

(4) John Cena defeated Chris Masters at 4:50.

Pre-match analysis: John Cena was out first. They showed an A-10 Warthog flying, supplied by Commander Tank Johnston. Cena high fived troops and grabbed a green flag that one of the soldiers had representing their group, and brought it into the ring. Rita Cosby was in the crowd applauding. King called her Styles' girlfriend. Oh! Styles said that Cosby was a big John Cena fan, and asked who wasn't these days. Cena showed that he was wearing a hat from the troops. He tossed his Chain Gang t-shirt into the crowd. Chris Masters was next. Without the lights it wasn't quite the same. He was kneeling and had on his white and gold ring cape. He threw it off, and some of the fans mocked his crowds. They did a great bit where King was telling Styles to whisper during Masters' entrance, and Styles said that, earlier today, Afghanistan inaugurated their first popularly elected parliament in thirty years, and he wanted to shout about it. He then asked if they could go back to whispering, but King said, no, they'd lost the moment. Styles complained about Masters packing his robe on the plane with the limited space they had. I thought they were going to ask how Masters packed that ego. Masters flexed his pecs, making them dance on the way to the ring. King talked about how the female soldiers were crazy about Chris Masters when they were in Afghanistan. (I wonder if they'll be less crazy about him as the weeks go on?) King asked if Styles could do that with his pectoral muscles (well, King said "pectorial"), then said, no, Styles doesn't even have pectoral muscles. In his line of the night so far, King said "He's got muscles in places you don't even have places, Joey Styles!" Styles noted that Masters was only 22 years old, and as a 23 year old without a full time job, that made me very, very sad. Styles noted that Masters would be one of the five challengers locked in the elimination chamber with John Cena at New Year's Revolution for the WWE Championship.

Match analysis: Cena stood there as the fans chanted "Ce-na!" They faced off in the middle of the ring and locked up. Masters got the early advantage, shoving Cena into the corner until the ref called for a break. Masters made the international signal for title belt around his waist. King talked about how, under the Taliban, 97 percent of females weren't even allowed to go to school (wait, how'd the other three percent get allowed?), but now, thirty percent of the Afghani parliament was women. Cena worked a side headlock on Masters. Masters shoved Cena off, but he came back with a shoulder block and covered. Masters kicked out. Cena went back to the side headlock. Masters hit a forearm to the kidneys to get out, then applied his own side headlock. Cena shoved out of it and Masters came back with a shoulder block. Cena did a drop down, a leapfrog, and a drop toehold into a front chancery, which Styles called, teaching me a new move name. Yay Styles! Masters made his way to his feet and shoved Cena off. Cena caught himself on the ropes. Masters went after him, but Cena pulled down the top rope and Masters went flying to the outside. Cena celebrated in the ring. Styles put over Cena's music career, probably for the casual fans who may be watching this who wouldn't normally be watching Raw, saying that he's sold almost half a million CD's globally. Not bad. King said that, earlier this week, a group of soldiers put together a makeshift recording studio and Cena went in and performed for them! (When do troops have time to be making recording studios?!) Cena went after Masters on the outside. Masters raked the eyes and bounced Cena's head off the steel steps.

Masters threw Cena back into the ring. King claimed that he invented rap music, when he would sit around at Christmas time and wrap presents and sing. Groan. Masters hit an axe handle to Cena's back and applied a front facleock. A graphic displayed that you could send a care package to the troops if you go to King asked if it was as cold there as it sounds, and Styles noted that it was 46 degrees, 33 with wind chill. Cena made his way to his feet and fought out of the facelock. However, Masters caught Cena and locked in the masterlock! Masterlock! Masterlock! Cena flailed around. King pointed out that this could make Masters champion at New Year's Revolution. Cena screamed as he tried to fight out. Masters threw Cena down as Cena was getting close to breaking out of the hold. Masters was going for a King style fist drop from the second rope, but Cena got his boot up! King made a funny comment about how that move never works for anyone else. The ref went into a double count. Masters was up first and Masters and Cena traded punches. Cena then hit a shoulder block and a pair of clotheslines. Cena hit a belly to back sitout powerbomb and did the you can't see me hand signal to Masters on the mat! He hit the five knuckle shuffle and took Cena up, hitting the FU and hooking the leg for the pinfall victory!

Post-match analysis: Cena celebrated his win, and they showed one of the soldiers doing the you can't see me. Someone held up a 164th hearts Cena sign. King said that the soldiers had been giving shout outs all week, and there were too many to air here tonight (gee, think you could put those on instead of a Snitsky squash match?), but you could see all of them at Cena high fived soldiers, including Wizard Hat. Someone even had what looked like a foam finger. (Where do they get these wonderful toys?) You could see one soldier video taping the show. I thought WWE doesn't allow that? Well, I guess it's anything for the troops! One of the female soldiers enthusiastically hugged Cena, and jumped for joy afterwards.

Match grade: C+. This match did a nice job playing into next month's main event, particularly the potential effect of the masterlock, though they should have emphasized what could happen if Masters locked it on Cena when Cena was weakened and had been through a hellacious elimination chamber match.

Tonight: Triple H versus Shawn Michaels in a boot camp match! Shouldn't they include what the heck it is in the hype?

Up next: Ric Flair! Judging by his recent legal problems, maybe he should have stayed in Afghanistan.

They went to another video package, set to Lifehouse's "You and Me," including both video and still photographs of the wrestlers talking and also interacting with the troops. Triple H talked about how coming over there changes you. Maria said she never expected to feel the things she feels. Shawn Michaels said that he'll never get used to the fact that simply saying hello touches people. He shed some tears. Chris Masters said that this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of his life. They played the song as they showed more video of the troops with the wrestlers.

"You and Me" by Lifehouse

What day is it? And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive
I can't keep up and I can't back down
I've been losing so much time

Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to lose
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

All of the things that I want to say just aren't coming out right
I'm tripping on words
You've got my head spinning
I don't know where to go from here

Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to prove
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

There's something about you now
I can't quite figure out
Everything she does is beautiful
Everything she does is right

Cause it's you and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to lose
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you
and me and all of the people with nothing to do
Nothing to prove
And it's you and me and all of the people
And I don't know why, I can't keep my eyes off of you

What day is it?
And in what month?
This clock never seemed so alive

One female soldier even had, no kidding, a sign that said "SPC Adams hearts COACH!" Oh gosh. I guess everyone has different tastes, huh? Maria said that making a smile on any of these guys' faces was wonderful. Candice said, tearfully, that you forget that the troops are there and away from their families. They showed lots of shots of soldiers holding up signs for their families. Ashley said "We totally love you guys!" In one of the funnier bits of interaction, Triple H even gave one of the troops a peck on the lips! (A female one. Don't get any ideas.) A lot of the divas hugged the troops, and Lilian kissed one on the cheek. John Cena said they're the heroes, because without them, we don't have nothin'. (Isn't that a double negative?) They had a lot of great photos and videos. One great Carlito sign: "Terroism? That's not COOL!" Ha! Lilian Garcia tearfully told one of the troops that America does appreciate them, and that she won't forget them, as they're in her heart. They showed Vince holding up what looked like a plaque that WWE had been presented with.

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: On Raw next Monday, "Kurt Angle delivers a shocking mesage! Don't miss this major announcement!" This promo also included Kurt's bit about how he wouldn't risk his life for these troops that represent a country that doesn't respect him. Well, that should definitely hook some casual fans.

*** Coach introduced sixteen time champion Ric Flair! (WHOOOOOOOOOO~!) Coach said that was the good part, and that Ric Flair was on an unbelievable losing streak, not only in the ring, but in life. Ouch. Flair was out next, sporting a gold robe. They showed Command Sergeant Major Iuni Savusa, the highest ranked enlisted man in Afghanistan. They showed a two page article on WWE in the Bagram Bullet, the Bagram Air Force Base newspaper. The headline read "Wrestling supestars visit Afghanistan, wrap up tour." A couple of fans threw up Four Horsemen hand signals! Nice.

Coach said that congratulations were in order for him on his "farewell tour" of Afghanistan. Coach said, as he watched Flair walk down the aisle, styling and profiling, he realizes this could be for the very last time. After what Triple H did to Flair at Survivor Series, taking him behind the barn and shooting him (proverbially speaking, I assume), he should have stayed down, but he didn't. Coach talked about the fragile state Flair was in and said that even the Coach could beat him one, two, three. Oh! The fans booed and several of them gave this a thumbs down. Coach said this is exactly what he'd like to do, and asked Flair if he had the guts to take on the Coach right then and there for his Intercontinental Championship, because he'd like nothing more than to beat Flair and take that title. The troops started chanting "Kick his ass!" Styles noted that they weren't allowed to say that on TV, but the troops could! Coach asked what Flair had to say about that. Flair took the mic and the crowd whooed. Coach said he had one thing to say: Whoooooooo!

(5) Ric Flair (Intercontinental Champion) defeated Coach in an Intercontinental Championship match.

Pre-match analysis: Flair took off his robe and tossed it to the outside.

Match analysis: Flair strutted to start the match. They locked up and Flair shoved him into the corner. Flair got a go behind, but back elbowed Flair in the eye! Coach attacked a downed Flair and choked him. Coach then took off his shirt and strangled him with his t-shirt until the ref broke it up. Coach then put the boots to Flair, but Flair gave Coach a thumb to the eye! Flair chopped the crap out of Coach's chest in the corner, along with punches. Flair took Coach down with a chop and followed up with a knee drop. Flair whooed and did the strut. King noted that Coach thinks he might become the new General Manager of Raw next week! Flair distracted the ref, sending him to check out something in the corner, and while ref's back was turned, Flair delivered a low blow! Flair chopped Coach once more. Flair then whooed and locked in the figure four leglock! Coach tapped almost instantaneously.

Post-match analysis: King claimed it was the fastest tapout on record. They showed an A-10 warthog flying by, and King said they named that plane after they saw Coach's body. Huh? Flair hugged a soldier.

Match grade: Not applicable. Coach is underrated as a heel. I wouldn't mind seeing him do another run as a heel manager. And yes, that is probably partially inspired by the fact that I wouldn't mind seeing Coach take another break from commentary. He works well in small doses. Flair seemed to be getting a lot of energy from the troops and turned in a good performance.

Styles introduced another video package, talking about how the WWE stars had visited the troops in the days leading up to the big show. Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally, Commander 54th Fighter Squadron, said that they were the only US fighter aircraft in the entire country of Afghanistan. Sergeant Craig Cowart, Fox Company 2nd Batallian 3rd Marines, introduced a segment in eastern Afghanistan at forward operating base Asadabad. Big Show talked about being there the first day of the tour, blowing up stuff on the range. Big Show with a machine gun? Yikes. Show said he gave it up to the troops, God bless them, the soldiers had hearts of steel. They went to Mehtar Lam next. Lieutenant Colonel Tony Feagin, PRT Methar Lam said they had over 200 soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines at this base. They help in reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, rebuilding infrastructure over 25 years of war. They played clips courtesy of MSNBC. Mick Foley said that this place shouldn't be ignored, because we paid attention to Afghanistan in late 2001 and then forgot about it, and Foley said these guys deserve better than being forgotten. Coach, Candice, Ashley, and Triple H posed with troops. Tech. Sergeant Brad Staton talked about how they were in the middle of nowhere and for WWE to come out and visit shows them that there are people back home that care. Vince and Trish were also shown. They went to Kandahar next. J.C. Bennetto of Echelon 4 introduced the segment. Chris Masters, Trish, Foley, Carlito, JBL, Flair, and Michaels were shown visiting with troops. Masters said they had met thousands of troops over the past few days, and he felt very insignificant and low on the totem pole there, and felt that the wrestlers should be going around getting the troops' autographs. Ghazni was next. Lieutenant Colonel Orlando Salinas of the Texas Army national Guard introduced this part. He talked about how a long building they saw when they came in used to be a Taliban school and they had converted it into part of their base. Vince McMahon talked about how they know they're building schools, and some places have fresh water for the first time as part of the effort to build infrastructure and making life better for these people. JBL said this was only the second time in five thousand years that the Afghani people have had an election for a democratically elected government. Shawn Micahels talked about the things being built and progress being made. Orgun-E was next. Ric Flair talked about how they flew there in a Blackhawk the day before, and how unbelievable it was. Michaels said that the soldiers would ask them most what they were doing there. Sergeant Matthew Haynes of the 82nd Airborne said that he never figured he'd be talking to WWE wrestlers in a war zone. Michaels said they went to places most people never go. Orgun-E is known as "rocket city." Michaels was shown holding a rocket, and when a soldier asked him if he was nervous, he said a little bit. Yeah, I think I would be too, although probably "a lot bit." Michaels loaded a rocket to be fired and enthusiastically yelled "Yeah!" afterwards. Cena put over the troops too. Flair said that one of the most rewarding things he's ever seen in his life was when a 23 year old girl cried when Shawn Michaels walked into her post because she didn't believe they were coming to visit. The girl said it was a pleasure for them to come and visit. Coach said that their lives get to continue and we get to do whatever we want to do, and they don't. JBL said that these guys are our modern day war heroes. Cena said they were always first in our hearts, and we respect what they do, because without them, we ain't got nothin'. Shelton Benjamin said that the armed forces are out there fighting for you and keeping you safe and allowing you to sleep at night and have all the things you have in your life, and you should be thankful. The clip closed with a shot of the American flag.

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: WWE Raw is coming to a town near you, live! I swear, are they ever coming back to the northwest?

Another video clip aired to "Right Here" by Staind. Triple H said that this was one of the experiences you have in life that you never forget. Coach talked about the troops' spectacular excitement level. Candice talked about coming to the troops and giving them a taste of home while the wrestlers got a taste of their world. Cena said that these guys showed them an example of pride that they get out of doing their thing. I loved this clip of Coach in flight gear. Maria looks even cuter with a flight mask on. This included mostly footage of the superstars flying around Afghanistan. They also showed footage of superstars firing machine guns. I don't know that I trust Candice and Ashley with a turret. Shelton Benjamin fired a rocket. They showed Cena in that makeshift recording studio they'd talked about before. It actually seemed like a pretty impressive setup. Masters stripped off his shirt and gave it to one of the female troops. Lots of great footage here. Vince said that they thought they were going to come over there and boost the troops' spirit, but the troops boosted the wrestlers' spirits.

"Right Here" by Staind

I know I've been mistaken
But just give me a break and see the changes that I've made
I've got some imperfections
But how can you collect them all and throw them in my face

But you always find a way to keep me right here waiting
You always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting
And if you chose to walk away I'd still be right here waiting
Searching for the things to say to keep you right here waiting

I hope you're not intending
To be so condescending it's as much as i can take
and you're so independent
you just refuse to bend so I keep bending till I break

But you always find a way to keep me right here waiting
You always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting
And if you chose to walk away I'd still be right here waiting
Searching for the things to say to keep you right here waiting

I've made a commitment
I'm willing to bleed for you
I needed fulfillment
I found what I need in you

Why can't you just forgive me
I don't want to relive all the mistakes I've made along the way
But I always find a way to keep you right here waiting
I always find the words to say to keep you right here waiting

But you always find a way
To keep me right here waiting
You always find the words to say to keep me right here waiting
And if I chose to walk away would you be right here waiting
Searching for the things to say to keep me right here waiting

*** Maria and Candice walking behind the scenes to get ready for their match. Maria looked amazing, as always. King hyped that, up next, it's a Santa's helpers divas match! Candice complimented these little white ball things that were hanging off her top, and Maria said she really liked them too, and started playing with them. When she looked up, Candice was gone. In the funniest Maria bit ever, she turned and started walking toward the door that said "Mines" on it! This was right out of Looney Tunes. Right before Maria got to the door, Candice ran over and made the save, redirecting Maria in the right direction. I love you, Maria. Styles said that Maria was still one of the brightest bulbs on their Christmas tree. Awwwww.

*** They showed a shot of Trish Stratus's Women's Championship sitting on a table in the back with Trish's Santa hat sitting on it. Trish was lacing up some camo "pants" that were more like the front and the back of camo pants, laced together on the side with white string showing lots and lots of lovely Trish leg. Oh my! She also had on a small camo top that was laced together. Ashley came in and they headed to the ring. Ashley put on a backwards baseball cap with a skull and crossbones (?!) on it. They walked past a couple of soldiers, and Ashley patted both of them on the shoulder. They looked at each other and nodded, and one of them covered his eyes, then looked back up and went "damn!" That was awesome. King said that he was going to have to show Trish and Ashley his "yule log." Oh! Styles asked if King just said "yule log" and laughed.

(Commercial break.)

Military Police at Camp Guardez sent their shout outs for the holidays.

(6) Candice Michelle & Maria defeated Trish Stratus & Ashley at 4:30 in a Santa's Helpers divas tag team match.

Pre-match analysis: Oh, it's time to rock and roll! Women's Champion Trish Stratus made her way out first. This may have been most of the wrestlers' favorite moment thus far. Ashley was out next. She had on a teeny tiny Santa's helper outfit, with a red with white trim miniskirt and a super small red top with more white furry trim. She also had on fishnets and black boots. King talked about how Ashley just removed the wind chill, because she's hot! Ashley and Trish hugged in the ring. Candice Michelle was next. Candice came out with her magic wand and had on entrance gear of a long red coat with white trim for the holidays, with a red dress on underneath. She also had on black boots and high white socks. Styles pointed out the wand, and King asked if he just talked about a "magic wand" before saying that he couldn't even go there. Thank God. Styles told him to leave that one alone. Styles pointed out how this may be the favorite match of the servicemen, and I may have to agree. As she got in the ring, Candice flung open her coat as the troops enthusiastically took pictures. She may have been wearing the shortest skirt ever, showing off quite a bit of booty. My precious Maria was next. She blew kisses to the fans. She kissed a soldier in the front row. You lucky bastard. Maria grabbed a fan's video camera and filmed the soldiers, then gave the man back his camera. Maria had on a short white puffy coat of surts with fur trim, a miniskirt with blue in front and red in the back, and a blue with red trim almost bikini top, along with a Santa hat! Styles noted that Bagram Air Force Based was 6,000 feet above sea level, higher than Denver, which is only 5,200 feet up. King blamed the altitude for being so out of breath instead of the divas, and Styles pointed out that they were actually at WWE headquarters, and thought the blood rushed from his head. Oh! King said he had always thought that Santa's helpers were elves, but all along, they'd been divas! Styles asked if Mrs. Claus knew. Maria took off her jacket. Maria also had on red bracelets and a red, white, and blue band on her leg. King talked about how the divas had entertained the troops all week and were carrying on a tradition of entertaining the troops begun by Marilyn Monroe, who came over with Bob Hope.

Maria and Ashley started things off. Should Ashley have been with Candice, since they always showed those two traveling together? Styles said that those other women never came to the front lines like the WWE divas. Maria and Ashley locked up as King asked for more wind. Oh! Maria got a side headlock and delivered a side headlock takeover. Maria was so proud of herself and applauded herself, jumping up and down. I'm sure the troops loved that. Maria then dodged Ashley and got a schoolyard trip up from behind, bending over and revealing her tiny red shorts underneath that skirt. Maria got a unique cover on Ashley, but Ashley kicked out at two. Maria applauded more and tagged in Candice. King talked about Maria's style and said it was better to be lucky than good. Candice pointed at Trish, calling her out. Ashley pointed over to Trish and tagged her in.

Candice then begged off, hiding from Trish in the ropes. Trish wanted to know what was up with that. Candice stood up on the barricade and fell back into the happy troops for some body surfing. Oh my! I wonder which troops had their hands where? Candice got in the ring again but wasn't quite ready, as she gave her dance. She then laid on the second rope and looked at the troops. Trish shoved Candice to the outside and laid on the second rope as well. Candice tried attacking Trish, but Trish jumped out of the way in time. Candice got back in the ring and came running at Trish, but Trish took her down Stone Cold style and started delivering right hands on the mat. Trish delivered a front kick to the gut to Candice and was going for a whirlybird headscissor takeover, but she caught referee Chad Patton by accident. Whoops! Trish was checking on the ref, so Candice grabbed her by the hair and slammed her back to the mat. Trish started fighting back with forearms, and chopped Candice across the boobs. She set her up in the corner and hit more boob chops! Trish's pants were coming down, showing a bit of the proverbial plumber crack which King noted. Oh my! Styles thanked Captain Christian Burke, who supplied some of the Afghanistan maps to the WWE production crew and supplied JBL's crappy Santa beard! Styles also thanked everyone who worked on the show back at the WWE production studios. Candice hit a big knee to Trish's face after Trish telegraphed a backdrop. Candice wanted Maria to tag in, but Maria signaled that she wanted to give the troops a photo op. And what a photo op it was! Maria struck a pose on the apron as Candice looked on in disbelief. Candice turned into a kick in the gut from Trish. Candice hit a back elbow to Trish and was climbing the ropes to follow up. Trish was going for Stratusfaction, but Candice shoved her off. Candice was going for a clothesline, but got another front kick to the gut, then got the whirlybird headscissors that she didn't get earlier. Trish grabbed a handful of hair and tagged in Ashley. Trish hit a snapmare and Trish and Ashley hit a double team elbow to Candice's midsection. Candice got a tip up, up and over in the corner, got a schoolgirl rollup and, with a handful of what Styles referred to as "skimpy little tights thingies," she got the win!

Post-match analysis: Candice and Maria celebrated with the troops, hugging several of them. One of the troops was such a pimp, giving a nod and a thumbs up to the camera after his hug from Candice. King claimed that Vince gave him a five pound box of money last year, gift wrapped, but this match was a better Christmas present than that. Anything involving Maria is awesome.

Match grade: C. A little mediocre, and not as good as most matches involving the Raw women, but with Maria, Candice, and to a lesser extent Ashley involved, that's what you're going to get. They wisely kept Trish tagged in for most of the match, and she put in a good performance. It would be nice to see Ashley and Candice put in some more time down in OVW picking up some ring skills. Maria's time in OVW has done her well, though she should get some more ring training there as well.

Up next: Shawn Michaels against Triple H in a boot camp match!

They showed footage courtesy of MSNBC. Tech. Sergeant Brad Staton talked about how on even a simple trip into town, the troops are at risk. A group of soldiers talked about how their mortar section came under fire. One soldier jumped up and took them out, getting a confirmed kill and protecting his comrades. Another soldier talked about getting the silver star for gallantry in combat, responding to an ambush in southern Afghanistan in the mountains. It was Chris Palumbo, who I believe is former WWE wrestler Chuck Palumbo's brother. They brought in a Special Forces team and dropped them off, and on the way home, they heard them taking serious fire. Two of the team members had been shot several times and were stuck on the side of a hill. Only armed with two machine guns in the windows, they went in and blocked the enemy from getting to the guys. They took 57 shots to the aircraft. The number one engine was shot out, the fuel cell was shot out, and the cockpit was shot out. Chris Palumbo took a bullet to the back of his helmet and ended up eliminating the rest of the enemy. Chief Master Sergeant Frederick Ricker talked about how, at most of the camps, there were things named after soldiers who had died. They showed several places, including Katzenberger's Korner. He talked about Disney Road, named after specialist Jason Disney who had been establishing operations at Bagram. Camp Cunningham, where the Air Force lives, was named after Jason Cunningham, who died during Operation Anaconda and helped save between 10 and 12 lives. They talked about two more soldiers who were killed in a firefight, and the Marines made a memorial to remember them. Staton talked again about the danger they were in whenever they went out.

(Commercial break.)

Promo time: January 8th, 2006, New Year's Revolution, Elimination Chamber baby! Carlito, Shawn Michaels, Kane, Chris Masters, Kurt Angle, and John Cena for the WWE Championship!

A video aired of the preparations for WWE's visit. The troops helped build the WWE ring. The WWE production designer was there to help guide everything. They showed them putting up American flags and WWE banners. Air Force, Army, and Navy were all there. One guy that I loved said that he was trying to get a job with WWE, and had a "Hire me, Mr. McMahon" sign! Sweet! Vince told him that they'd hook him up when he got out. Oh! I guess all I need to do for a WWE job is go fight in Afghanista, huh? They even put WWE banners on a fighter jet. The soldiers talked about how, for just a moment, they got to live their childhood dream while in Afghanistan. In a great clip, a group of soldiers strutted simultaneously in the ring and let out simultaneous whoooooooooos! They also practiced some moves in the ring, which was pretty cool, even a frog splash. Nice! They closed by wishing everyone merry Christmas.

(7) Shawn Michaels defeated Triple H at 13:38.

Pre-match analysis: Styles thanked Master Sergeant Marx, who was a big part of the construction of this makeshift arena, on an old Soviet Air Force runway in front of a hangar. Triple H was out first, water bottle and all! Triple H pointed to all the troops. Guess even he can't be a heel all the time. Triple H pointd to the troops once more and did his water spray, though it ain't quite the same without the spotlight. King asked what the rules of a boot camp match were. You can't be disqualified, and you can't be counted out outside the ring, and some "military hardware" coudl be involved. Styles explained that, basically, there were no rules. Styles did one more sponsorship bit for the WWE board game. Shawn Michaels was out next, and he had a video camera with him, videoing the troops on his way to the ring. Michaels was sporting a WWE Tribute to the Troops shirt and army desert camo pants. They interspersed clips from Michaels' camera. One of the troops tipped his shades down and did a pretty decent Rock People's Eyebrow impersonation. Michaels got up on the apron and shot more footage. Styles talked about how Michaels' brother and father both served in the military. Speaking of brothers, King pointed out how that silver star recipient, Chris Palumbo, was the brother of former WWE superstar Chuck Palumbo.

Match analysis: Michaels and Triple H locked up. Triple H hit a shoulder block and posed. A graphic crawl aired thanking the production crew in Afghanistan. John Laurinaitis and Kevin Dunn were among those thanked. Triple H locked on a side headlock and followed up with a shoulder block. Michaels hit a hip toss and a deep armdrag into an armbar. Michaels delivered a knee to the back and went back to the armbar. Triple H hit a forearm in the corner, and a back elbow in the other corner. Michaels hit another deep armdrag into an armbar. Michaels hit a shoulder block and blocked a hip toss from Triple H into a backslide, but only got a two count. Another armdrag/armbar. Triple H hit a back elbow to Michaels in the chest, knocking him to the outside. Triple H shook his arm out as we went to break.

(Commercial break.)

Michaels hit a knee lift off of an Irish whip. Triple H backdropped Michaels to the outside. Triple H went after Michaels and hit a big right hand. Triple H hammered away at Michaels up the ramp and hit a knee to Michaels. They got up in front of the entrance. Triple H yelled "That's it!" and signaled the end. He was about to go for a pedigree on the flooring in front of the entrance, but Michaels countered into a backdrop. Michaels grabbed a sandbag and threw it at Triple H, who caught it, then followed up with a sandbag to the head! King threw in a little insider comment, saying that, if he didn't know better, he'd accuse Shawn Michaels of sandbagging it. Michaels threw a series of right punches, but the ref broke it up. King and Styles pointed out that the ref was being a doof, since anything goes in a boot camp match. Triple H crawled away and grabbed a gas can, bouncing it off Michaels' head. Triple H staggered away. The ref tried to get Trips to head back to the ring, but he wasn't listening. He grabbed Michaels and delivered a big right hand to Michaels. Michaels came back with a chop. They traded forearms, with Michaels getting the advantage, delivering forearms and chops. Triple H take control once more and tried leading Michaels back to the ring, but Michaels came back with forearms and threw Triple H into the ring.

Michaels chopped Triple H in the corner. Michaels reversed an Irish whip and sent Triple H over the top rope to the floor on the outside. Michaels grabbed a wet mop from a bucket at ringside and hit Triple H in the head head with it, with the wet mop end! I love that Triple H sold that. King made a "mopping up the floor with" joke. Triple H whipped Michaels head first into the steel ringpost on the outside. Triple H then rolled Michaels back into the ring. King talked about how they used to be together in DX. Triple H ducked a clothesline, and the ref got decked! Triple H hit a DDT to Michaels. Triple H covered, but the ref was out. Triple H got a visual three count. Another ref ran in, but Triple H only got a two count before Michaels kicked out! Triple H shoved referee Chad Patton, but Patton shoved right back! Patton pointed to a patch on his arm, the insignia of the Army first cavalry division. Triple H mockingly saluted before hitting a big forearm to the ref! Oh my! Now that's a heel! Triple H dumped the second ref to the outside. The crowd actually got into Triple H's heelish antics, leading to a small Triple H chant. Triple H scoop slammed Michaels. He climbed up on the second rope. The fans were still into Triple H. Triple H was going for a fist drop, but Michaels got the boot up, and Triple H did a comically delayed front bump, almost Flair style. The ref was back up and went into a double count. They got up right before the ten count and traded right hands. Michaels got the advantage and chopped Triple H. He hit the flying forearm and kipped up. Inverted atomic drop and a clothesline from Michaels. Michaels hit another clothesline and scoop slammed Triple H before climbing to the top rope! Michaels hit the top rope elbow drop and signaled for some Sweet Chin Music! He tuned up the band and went for the kick, but Triple H ducked! Triple H set up for the pedigree, but Michaels got a double leg takedown and catapulted Triple H into the turnbuckle! Michaels followed up with Sweet Chin Music and covered for the win!

Post-match analysis: After he match, they showed a replay of the elbow drop and Sweet Chin Music. King and Styles recapped everything on the show. Styles thanked the artists who donated their music to WWE's Tribute to the Troops, including "The Great Divide" by Scott Stapp, "You and Me" by Lifehouse, and "Right Here" by Staind. Shawn Michaels celebrated with the troops after the match. Styles said it had been an honor to pay tribute to the troops.

Match grade: B. A decent main event match for a show like this. It was a bit ridiculous to give Triple H that looooong visual pin count, but I guess they wanted to make sure that these guys remained fairly even steven in the eyes of the fans.

The show closed with one more video package, beginning with their trip over, set to Scott Stapp's "The Great Divide." They showed everyone sleeping on the plane over. Let me just say that a sleeping Maria is a beautiful, beautiful thing. One funny clip involved Maria lifting one of the troops up. Girl's got some muscles! One soldier showed off his strut for the troops. On one flight in Afghanistan, a tired Maria put her head on the shoulder of one of the troops. Oh! Being a pimp, he smugly smiled at the camera. Love that! Another funny clip included a soldier teasing a chairshot to John Cena. It included Vince saying "We're here to say thank you, and we're here to tell you that America damn well supports you!" As much as I don't care for that Scott Stapp song, it's somewhat appropriate when talking about what the troops have done for the Afghani people.

"The Great Divide" by Scott Stapp

I have run to the ocean
Through the Horizon
Chased the sun
I've waited for the light to come,
And at times I would give up
You have
Wrapped your loving arms 'round me,
And with your love I'll overcome.
You have
Loved me when I was weak,
You have
Given unselfishly,
Kept me from Falling...Falling
Everywhere but my Knees!

You set me free!
To live my life
You became my reason to survive the great divide
You set me Free!

I've been on Heaven's doorstep,
With the Door open,
One foot inside
I've cried out...God give me answers!
Please hush child I'll tell you why
You have
Loved me when you were weak,
You kept
Giving unselfishly,
Kept you from
Everywhere but your Knees!

You set me free!
To live my life
You became my reason to survive the great divide
You set me free!

Oh...our love is beautiful
Oh...oo...oh...Isn't it beautiful?
Times have changed
But you remain
My everything
Our Love is Beautiful
Stood by my side
Helped me survive
My great Divide
Isn't this is beautiful.

You set me free!
To live my life
You became my reason to survive the great divide
You set me free!

Show rating: 6.0. You can't really grade this show in the same way as a regular show. In some ways it was pretty middle of the road, and below par as far as the matches went, but that wasn't what this was about at all. They put the spotlight on the troops and actually made a strong point when talking about how Afghanistan has been largely forgotten. Vince McMahon's railing against the so-called "elite media" at the beginning of the show was unneeded and somewhat insulting to the intelligence of the WWE's audience, but thankfully, most of the rest of the show kept the political commentary to a minimum. Even our Republican friend JBL kept the focus where it should be, on the fact that the troops do an important job and, whether you agree or disagree with American policy, the troops themselves deserve to be supported. Styles and Lawler were great on commentary all night, and Styles was knowledgeable and respectful to the product in just the right ways, while King provided some of his best one liners in ages. Their commentary was classy and continued the focus on the troops.

The highlights of this show were the Santa versus Santa match, particularly JBL's great pre-match promo, John Cena versus Chris Masters in a decent match, and a fun main event. The vignette with Maria almost walking into the mine room was the funniest moment of the show. The promo for next week's Raw wasa bit unsettling, as they're apparently using this Tribute to the Troops to help Kurt Angle get more over as a heel. Still, if you take this show out of the greater WWE context and ignore that opening promo, it was a real feel good moment.


Thanks for sharing in my coverage of Raw! I'd love to hear your thoughts at I'll be back with you with another OVW column tomorrow, and be sure to check out my latest OVW column taking a look at how WWE's drug policy could potentially affect OVW, as well as last Friday's Smackdown Express looking at the last episode of Smackdown before the holiday break, as this Friday's show is a best of episode. Your hero and mine, Dusty Giebink, will be back covering Raw next week, as well as filling in for me this Friday night to present to you the Smackdown Deal covering the best of holiday show.

As this will be my last show review before Christmas, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for reading. It's been a fun year doing Express, and I'm excited to do another. Have a happy holiday season, a merry Christmas, a happy Channukah, or more importantly, a good time being thankful for the previous year and for all that you have. Until next time, be strong and remember to smile!

Mike Roe reviews Friday Night Smackdown every week for Mike always wants to hear from you at with your thoughts, comments, questions, critiques, or whatever else you want to share. He also writes an OVW Specialist column for every Monday.

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller has covered pro wrestling full time since 1987 starting with the Pro Wrestling Torch print newsletter. launched in 1999 and the PWTorch Apps launched in 2008.

He has conducted "Torch Talk" insider interviews with Hulk Hogan, The Rock, Steve Austin, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Eric Bischoff, Jesse Ventura, Lou Thesz, Jerry Lawler, Mick Foley, Jim Ross, Paul Heyman, Bruno Sammartino, Goldberg, more.

He has interviewed big-name players in person incluiding Vince McMahon (at WWE Headquarters), Dana White (in Las Vegas), Eric Bischoff (at the first Nitro at Mall of America), Brock Lesnar (after his first UFC win).

He hosted the weekly Pro Wrestling Focus radio show on KFAN in the early 1990s and hosted the Ultimate Insiders DVD series distributed in retail stories internationally in the mid-2000s including interviews filmed in Los Angeles with Vince Russo & Ed Ferrara and Matt & Jeff Hardy. He currently hosts the most listened to pro wrestling audio show in the world, (the PWTorch Livecast, top ranked in iTunes)


Wade Keller, editor

James Caldwell, assistant editor

Bruce Mitchell (since 1990)
Pat McNeill (since 2001)
Greg Parks (since 2007)
Sean Radican (since 2003)

We also have a great team of
TV Reporters
and Specialists and Artists.


PWTorch offers a VIP membership for $10 a month (or less with an annual sub). It includes nearly 25 years worth of archives from our coverage of pro wrestling dating back to PWTorch Newsletters from the late-'80s filled with insider secrets from every era that are available to VIPers in digital PDF format and Keller's radio show from the early 1990s.

Also, new exclusive top-shelf content every day including a new VIP-exclusive weekly 16 page digital magazine-style (PC and iPad compatible) PDF newsletter packed with exclusive articles and news.

The following features come with a VIP membership which tens of thousands of fans worldwide have enjoyed for many years...

-New Digital PWTorch Newsletter every week
-3 New Digital PDF Back Issues from 5, 10, 20 years ago
-Over 60 new VIP Audio Shows each week
-Ad-free access to all free articles
-VIP Forum access with daily interaction with PWTorch staff and well-informed fellow wrestling fans
-Tons of archived audio and text articles
-Decades of Torch Talk insider interviews in transcript and audio formats with big name stars.


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